It’s one or the other – Heaven or Hell. Or is it?

Jim Palmer


Our mind can only operate within the framework of what is often called “dualism,” which is perceiving the world through a grid of binary opposition: up/down; right/left; good/bad; happy/sad; cold/hot; day/night; etc…

Dualistic thinking is not a problem when it comes to basic human cognitive functioning. However, there is a limit to what can be known in this framework, and when we impose it on spiritual truth it becomes a problem.

Perhaps one of the most dualistic views of the Christian religion is: Heaven/Hell. In this dualistic understanding, Heaven is viewed as a perfect state of being or a perfect paradise with no pain, no suffering, no disturbance, no discomfort, no difficulty, no problems, no hardships… just complete perfection. On the other hand, Hell represents the opposite – eternal conscious torment.

Can you see the dualism in that? It’s one or the other – Heaven or Hell.

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55 thoughts on “It’s one or the other – Heaven or Hell. Or is it?

  1. Interesting that you’re advocating your best life now!

    By the way, it’s godly sorrow that leads to repentance not to be repented of, so the concept of contrition remains, despite what Jim Palmer says.

    There are some things in life, of course which are black and white. In fact, the Jewish concept of thinking which Jesus encouraged didn’t really have any grey areas. No inbetween. You either loved or you hated, you believe or you don’t, you followed you left. Hot or cold. He said he’d spew out the luke warm, the inbetween dabbler. Life or death, blessing or cursing. In or out.

    Why would you need more than two places? You’re either with God where He is, or you’re not.

    God offers inclusion, but many chose exclusion. They exclude themselves through unbelief and through rejecting His offer.

    The Catholics, of course, added athird option, purgatory, so that they could derive some income and mileage from the relatives of the dead.

    There is light or there is dark. The Word of God is the light which dispels darkness, and the darkness will never understand the light.

    Is that dualism? Who cares. It’s truth.

    So what is the opposite of truth? You see, this works in just about every thing we’re involved in.

    Or not!

  2. Greg,
    Can you alter the menus on the right hand side of this page to reflect ‘recent posts’ rather than ‘top posts’ which, inexplicably, is showing ancient history of this site of subjects you have closed off, and should be long gone from this blog?

  3. The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.

    – Niels Bohr

    In every religious tradition there is a history of non-dualistic thinking. In Jewish thought there is the ‘Sustained Paradox’ – one must hold two mutually exclusive propositions in sustained tension –

    In Christianity we must accept that God is at the same time three separate persons, and also one. This is a paradox and a mystery.

  4. Well, there is heaven and earth, heaven and hell (for want of a better word), Paul speaks of the third heaven, implying a first and second at least. There is reference to Paradise, which has been spoken of in three separate locations in Scripture, on the earth, in the grave and before the Throne of God. There is the grave, or Hades, Gehenna, or Tartarus, where Allen angels are kept until the devil is judged and cast into the Lake of Fire.

    So I’m seeing a growing list of options, here, and suddenly the dualistic theory is losing credibility.

    The real issue isn’t the place but the condition – separation unto or from, defined by sin or righteousness. Either we are separated unto God, or we are separated from God. Either we are in our sin or we are made righteous through faith. This is what determines our eternal destination.

    There is a tension, and it is mentioned in Scripture.

    Matthew 11:12
    And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

    We are pressed into the kingdom through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. The violence occurs when we receive the gospel message and accept Jesus as Lord, confessing him as our King.

    Romans 10:8-10
    But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

  5. Steve, I cannot fault your premise here – even sounds like something God told me:

    “The real issue isn’t the place but the condition – separation unto or from, defined by sin or righteousness. Either we are separated unto God, or we are separated from God. Either we are in our sin or we are made righteous through faith. This is what determines our eternal destination.

    What I would broach however is your concept of the word eternal and of what our destination is. Does it mean age without end, or is it an age lasting? Is our destination to be made to stand before the judgment podium of Christ, or to got to ‘hell’ if we don’t confess Jesus? The goats; was their sin in not confessing Jesus or in not becoming known of Him and so doing the works of the Father, but rather their own works? Our destination is Christ – it is denying this which makes people goats.

    Compare these texts with your preferred version.

    12. “From the days of John the Baptist until henceforth, the Kingdom of Heaven will be gained by austerity, and the disciplined shall win it.

    To suffer (allow) violence so that the violent may take it by force means to GRASP THE TRUTH of the kingdom and NOT LET GO! That the kingdom does not come by observation of the Law, but by submitting to the grace of God expressed in an as Jesus Christ.

    Now there are some interesting things about Romans 10 which are easily missed by pulling a couple of verses out. I have always preferred big chunks of scripture and having it harmonize within itself and with other texts. Paul is writing about Israel.
    My comments in ( ) and Aramaic alternative trans in { }. Emphasis in CAPS.

    Romans 10

    1. My brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on their behalf, is that they should Live.
    2. For I testify over them, that there are those who are zealous for God among them, except not through knowledge. (They know not Jesus)
    3. The righteousness of God (Jesus), however, they know not, except they want to uphold their own righteousness (which is by the Law). Because of this they did not submit to the righteousness of God (Jesus).
    4. For the binding post of the Law is Christ, onto righteousness, for whoever believes.

    5. For Moses thus wrote of the righteousness through the Law, that whoever performs these [commandments] shall Live through them.
    6. Righteousness through faith, however, says thus, that you shall NOT say in your heart, “Who goes up to heaven and is with Christ?
    7. “And who goes to sheol’s abyss and is raised by Christ from the {house of the} Dead?”
    8.EXCEPT WHAT DOES IT SAY? Hold close this answer to your lips and in your heart, this is the Manifestation (Word) of Faith that we preach,
    9. And if you confess with your mouth our Lord Jesus And believe in your heart that God raised him from the {house of the} Dead, you shall Live.
    10. For the heart that believes in him, is sanctified, and the lips that confess in him, Live.
    11. For Scriptures says,

    “Whoever believes in him shall not perish.” (Shall not enter in by oblivion.)

    12. And through this, He does not differentiate, neither the Jews, nor the Aramaic speaking people (Paul is pointing out that they are all of he same root). For One is He, Lord of all, who is bountiful to all who call on Him.
    13. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall Live.
    14. How will they thus call upon whom they do not believe? Or how will they believe in whom they did not listen to? Or how will they hear [about him] without someone preaching [to them.]
    15. Or how can they preach if they are not sent as apostles? As it is written [in Scriptures,]

    “How graceful the feet of those who proffer peace and blessings!”

    16. Except not all were receptive to the preaching of God’s Revelation For Isaiah said,

    “My Lord, who believes in our echoing [Your Voice?]” (Repeating your message?)
    18. Except I say, why did they not listen?
    And, behold, in all the earth
    His echo has been heard through their voices.
    And to the outskirts of the universe their words.


    First Moses said thus,

    “I will give you a people that are not together,
    And I will anger you by a nation that is not faithful.”

    20. Isaiah, however, proclaimed and said,

    “I appeared among those that wanted me not,
    …and was found by those who did not ask about me.”

    21. About Israel he said,

    “I extended my hand all day long
    …to a people that were destructive and unappeased.”

    Salvation is not by an act of your will, it is by your submission to His will – there is a very subtle yet important distinction – just as your “fall” was not your “fault”, so to your being raised up was not your “faith” working in Him, it was His Faith working in you, as in these threes abide, faith, hope and love.

    Unfortunately these days it seems to be more about faith in hype and lust.

    By the way, the Greeks were largely of Hebrew stock hence their 22 letter alphabet.

  6. In ‘Surprised by Hope’, N T Wright puts a very solid case for the follower of Jesus to example ‘through a glass darkly’, as it were, his resurrection life, and the new creation to come. In other words, we aren’t to look forward to heaven being our ultimate destiny (and so take our foot off the gas in this life), but to demonstrate something of the life to come to a lost world, when God makes all things new, and joins his creation on a new earth. Man was never destined for heaven – to think such is gnostic folly and wholly unscriptural.

  7. That’s interesting, because the New Testament definitely encourages us to set our affections on things above, where Christ is seated with the Father, not on earthly things.

    If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth…
    Colossians 3:1-4

    He goes on to list things of the flesh to put to death as we represent Christ in the earth.

    paul, in fact, makes it clear that believers, once saved, do have an expectation of a heavenly destination. It is not our only focus, but it would be naive to state categorically that we would not earnestly desire to be with God in heaven.

    Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

    What are the eternal things we look forward to? He goes on…

    For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
    2 Corinthians 5:1-5

    God is preparing our new garment, a house not made with hands – our spiritual body, set for heaven, because flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, so he is preparing us for this, and we have an expectation. Paul is clearly preaching for our heavenly future.

    Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
    1 Corinthians 15:50-53

    Paul reminds us in Ephesians of where we are spiritually seated – in Christ, in heavenly places.

    …what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
    Ephesians 1:19-23

    And we are seated in Christ.

    God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
    Ephesians 2:4-7

    Oh gosh, how much more do you need to understand that we are no longer citizens of this earth, but citizens of heaven, in Christ, who is seated far above all. The more I consider it the more Scripture comes ot me to demonstrate that we are to be heavenly minded as long as we remain in the earth. This is what sets us apart.

  8. Goodness, now I’m thinking about these things, and I’m reminded of so much Scripture.

    Philippians 3
    17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
    18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
    19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame–who set their mind on earthly things.
    20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

  9. Matthew 6
    19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
    20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
    21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  10. Strangers and pilgrims in the earth.

    Hebrews 11
    8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
    9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
    10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
    11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
    12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude–innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
    13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
    14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
    15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
    16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

    They sought the New Jerusalem. They had their focus on the heavenly country, even then. They were pilgrims and strangers in the earth. Their citizenship was of heaven, and of the New Jerusalem.

    There is so much New Testament Scripture on this.

    How could you possibly call the seeking after a heavenly destination either gnostic or unscriptural? It is totally what God is promising us as pilgrims and strangers in this earth.

  11. Oh, by the way, wazza, did you see that? Abraham dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, according to the New Testament writer! They were not only blood kin, but grandfather, father and son.

    The New Jerusalem…

    Galatians 4
    22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.
    23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise,
    24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar–
    25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children–
    26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

  12. More on heaven, Mount Zion, and the New Jerusalem.

    Hebrews 12
    22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
    23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
    24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

    Registered in heaven. Who? The church of the firstborn! Those who are born of the Spirit. Citizens of heaven.

  13. A few years ago, I would have agreed with you, Steve, but now I view those scriptures, and others, with a different outlook. If you believe beforehand that you are heaven-bound, the verses you posted can fit in, sort of, but they don’t make a case if you think independently, but still biblically. For instance, when Paul writes in 2 Cor 5 that we groan to be clothed with our new habitation, which is from heaven, he does not mean we have to go to heaven to receive it. He simply means that is where the gift comes from. If I say to you I have some beer for you in my fridge, I don’t mean you have to come to my house to drink it.

    What event will cause us to gain spiritual bodies, this new habitation? Jesus and NT writers are crystal clear. It is the bodily return of Jesus to earth, when we shall all be changed, the dead in Christ raised first, and the living transformed (1 Cor 15). However, the current predominant Christian view of life on earth is – I’m a Christian Get Me Out of Here. This is wrong thinking and robs the heart of the believers hope in Christ; the one expounded so clearly by Paul and others, that the hope we have is of bodily resurrection, to live and reign with Jesus on earth, eternally. Not another existence in heaven.

    To say otherwise is, effectively, to call our bodies, and the created fallen earth, worthless junk. This degrades what God called very good in Gen 1-2 and disregards the pinnacle of his created order – human kind. God is in the business of eventually making all things new, but we have a responsibility to try, as best we can under the help of the Holy Spirit, to usher in a glimpse of what is to come in the here and now. If you can sit back in the deck chair and wait for your ticket to heaven, that’s unlikely to ever happen. A dualistic view of the universe has given gnosticism, Greek philosophy, enlightenment thinkers and, of course, Hollywood, plenty of material that we have swallowed gladly, to the gospel’s detriment sadly.

  14. The remarkable thing is that while we are citizens of God’s kingdom (call it heaven if you will), as exiles, we wait for that country to come to us in the renewed creation.

  15. No, zeibart, in fact the New Jerusalem will connect heaven and the new earth, and we will have free access to all. The patriarchs, by faith, sought a heavenly country, a new city, the City of God.

    Your doctrine is similar to the JWs, by the way, who deny their people access to heaven unless they are one of the 144,000, who have all been accounted for (since 1914!), meaning the rest can only ever hope to live in what they call the paradise earth.

    Your interpretation is not accurate to Scripture.

    So, are you storing up treasure in heaven or in e earth?

  16. And, of course, we are already sitting together in Christ in heavenly places as citizens.

    God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
    Ephesians 2:4-7

    For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    Philippians 3:17

  17. New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven, as we “put on Christ” and walk in the Spirit. The Old Jerusalem experience in being under the Law. Old as in Sodom and Egypt too, as opposed to New, as in the Living Temple of God, the eternal Body of Christ, the “country” or Man-sion he went to prepare for us, so His Father and He should come and dwell with us, so that where he is at, we may be also. Salvation is NOT about us getting people to heaven, but about us (re)presenting heaven to people, as Ambassadors of the kingdom.

    Yes Steve, we may only do this if you are seated from the right of God in Christ.

    It hit me today how that the whole world walked all over Jesus, they trod Him down as he laid down His life for all, and now He sits in heaven, expecting until His enemies become consecrated as the rug under His feet, and we all, as you point out, were once enemies.

    That Jesus, He has a such a way with words…

  18. Steve, my doctrine is really very simple (and I honestly am unaware whether it accords with JWs – that some of it might do is irrelevant and does not bother me anyhow). Read all the verses you posted above again, but with a last day, resurrection mindset, not a disembodied ‘heavenly’ one. Take the last one – Phil 3:20 (not 17). We await a saviour FROM heaven (of which we have become citizens). We don’t go there, we receive Jesus from there. And for what purpose? Verse 21 explains: that our bodies will become like his glorious one! Isn’t that clear enough? He returns, we are resurrected. Simple.

    All the other scriptures are variations on that theme. The NT is awash with the ‘now/yet to come’ tension. We have/are xyz now, but we will be XYZ in the future. You know what I mean by that, I’m sure. This is the hope we have in Christ, not an escape route out of earth. Go all the way back to Gen 1-2. Where was God in relation to Adam? In his heart, in heaven? No! Walking with him, alongside, talking and fellowshipping with him in person, on earth. That has always been man’s destiny. Not some relocation exercise.

    Take John 6:44 – why would Jesus state that his very purpose was to raise up people on the last day who the Father calls to him if, in fact, he could have said that he would let folk enter heaven for eternity. No, Jesus talks the language of bodily resurrection, not disembodied alternatives.

    When you use Eph 2:4-7 as a proof scripture, you then have to say that if we are currently in a literal state of being seated with Christ, we also must have been crucified too (Gal 2:19). But since none of us have been put to a literal death, the imagery Paul is using describes our present faith-bought situation, although not appropriated in full until Christ’s return. This is exactly what the OT patriarchs were yearning for – firstly, the spirit of God dwelling in people ie living stones, to be completed by God’s total renewal of mankind and the earth he had originally made ie the perfect country.

    You may deny this, but a heaven-bound doctrine waters down the foundational purpose of Jesus and God’s ultimate plan for the universe. It rejects large chunks of scripture describing our transformation into the body Jesus was bequeathed at his resurrection. A heaven or hell perspective plays right into the adversary’s hands and is the start of all manner of Greek, Platonic dualism. Crucially, your standpoint diminishes death. Death is the last and ultimate enemy. If we just ‘slip to the room next door’ we make death to be a welcome pathway. That’s not how God sees it. He hated death so much, he gave Jesus to overcome it and take the keys of death. But still we die; however, we will escape the second (and final) death, since in Christ, we will rise to eternal life. What’s the point of resurrection if we are already disembodied in heaven? Understand what the true spiritual body will be like (see the last chapters of the gospels) and you will have better revelation on this entire topic.

  19. Actually, Paul said, “for me to live is Christ; to die is gain”. He was in a quandary whether to stay in the earth for the sake of the people he was discipling, or to go to be with the Lord, which, he said, was far better.

    For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
    Philippians 1:21-24

    So he would rather be with Christ. So where is Christ? Well He is sitting at the right hand of the Father on High.

    The resurrection of the saints is, on more than one occasion, referred to as a catching up. Resurrection itself means to be raised up.

    The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
    1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

    We meet Him in the air. we go up. He comes to meet us, and we will always be with Him. We will meet ‘in the clouds’. Sounds like going up to me.

    I have already mention 1 Corinthians 15, where it says the same thing, that we will be raised up.

    Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

    So this is consistent with being raised up to meet Him. We have to be changed because we are going to another place. We are going into an eternal state with God. We are going to Him. Jesus is coming again to bring us to the Father.

    And who said anything about an escape? Those are your words. This is a promotion.

  20. zeibart,
    All the other scriptures are variations on that theme.

    No, they are not. Your theory doesn’t fit them at all.

    I am basing what I am telling you on what the Scriptures actually say, not what I think they should say, not attempting to interpret them in a separate way to how they are written.

    You are beginning with a premise and attempting to fit Scripture around it, but that is not how to read Scripture, nor how to form doctrine. I have given you several Scriptures which confirm what I have told you. This is because I based what I told you on what they say.

  21. There’s nothing at all about going ‘up’ to heaven which is an ancient illiterate understanding of the world and the cosmos.

    Heaven is not ‘up’ anywhere neither does it exist.

    It s not the abode of God as God lives and is everywhere. He isn’t consigned to a place as the ancients believed.

    That you take those verses as literal is infantile.

  22. Bones, I think it was Dake (of the wacky Dake’s Bible translation and study notes) who posited that God lived with the heavenly host on another planet in a galaxy far, far away.

    My personal take is that scripture mentions another abode for those who are not made from ‘the dust of the earth’. The only explanation I can fathom is that this spirit/heavenly realm is not confined to, or defined by, our 3D space-time-matter universe. It sits outside what we humans experience, but has overlapped in the past. I do think that there are ‘thin places’ where the spirit and carbon worlds exist in close proximity – such places often become enshrined in folklore and myth, but that should not preclude our acknowledgement of them.

  23. Steve, what I have written is no more a ‘theory’ than your claim. Personally, I believe the scriptures and my reading of them, stand up more readily that your use of them to put forward a transit to heaven when we die. My view is supported by the broadest biblical span – a Gen to Rev understanding. I begin with no premise and let the OT and NT speak for themselves. I can’t force you to see things differently, but an independent reader would, I think, say you are wrenching scripture into the shape you desire.

  24. Back to an earlier comment you made using 1 Thess 4 and 1 Cor 15. I hope you and I agree that Jesus is returning. It’s in OT prophecy, Jesus said as much, angels declared it and Rev illustrates the return. What happens at that return is briefly outlined by Paul in those 2 passages. We rise (from graves and as living beings) from the earth to meet him in the air and so to be with him forever. Yes?

    OK, the important bit…Jesus continues his transition from heaven to earth accompanied by the saints in their new spiritual bodies. We see him as he is and engage with Jesus on earth, taking part in his reign. Nothing new or contentious there, I suggest. You probably have a pre-trib rapture theology, which says Jesus comes back and the parousia whisks off the believers for a big party in heaven before coming back again. I don’t have time or space to kill that sacred cow, but it’s not in the Bible.

    In ancient ME culture, a high ranking dignitary would be met by a town’s VIPs as he arrived, some way outside of the town gates to escort their guest back to the city. This is called a parousia too. What Paul puts forward in 1 Thess 4 is that same act. 1 Cor 15 is a wonderful account of our future resurrection body, but it in no way references a new existence in heaven. Jesus is not bringing us to the Father, he is preparing us for the Father’s eventual arrival on a new earth (Rev 21).

  25. Lastly to Phil 1:21 – to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul’s firm hope in the resurrection and not an unclothed, disembodied shadow existence elsewhere is his primary focus throughout his letters, so let’s not forget that. Paul knows that he is ending his ministry, but reassures the Philippians that death is not to be feared for the believer. He wants to encourage them that in life and death, if you are in Christ you have a hope and a future eternal life.

    So, if Paul was quite happy with the common notion that the grave (sheol etc) is all of man’s destiny, he is joyful for the fact that Jesus will resurrect him. That there be a gap between death and the ‘last day’ is irrelevant to Paul for to him it matters not since he is confident that when he dies, the next thing he’ll know is being resurrected. Indeed, Paul knew that his resurrection body would be infinitely better than his current physical one, therefore to die definitely was gain. He would be with Christ on that day because he would have been through what I wrote in the post above, accompanying Jesus back to his rule on earth.

  26. Bones, having eliminated most of Scripture from your own understanding, there isn’t much I can say to you Biblically, except to wonder how you would, on the one hand, be comfortable with the scientific notion that, say, black holes can lead to the birth of other universes, but not that there could be an alternative yet accessible space/time continuum called by the ancients (and moderns) ‘heaven’.

    As it is referenced 550 times in Scripture, I suggest I am following the Biblical trend of understanding that God is in an elevated position and has offered us the opportunity of enjoying eternity in His presence, whether on earth, or in a higher place, or as part of the citizenship of the heavenly city of Jerusalem.

    Undoubtedly, you and zeibart have difficulty in believing this for various reasons, but to call the saints of old and new ‘infantile’, for accepting a perfectly reasonable understanding of what heaven is and represents is showing ignorance of the Biblical accounts.

    I do not mind zeibart’s approach because it is at least on the basis of believing the canon, and he conducts himself with reasonable decorum, but I am discussing this with him, primarily, because he considers the understanding of heaven as a real and accessible place to be ‘gnostic’ and devilish, which is a terrible slur on most of the New Testament writers, on Jesus, and on the majority of saints who understand heaven to be part of the kingdom we are set to inherit.

    No one has denied the probability that we will also have access to the renewed earth as well as the New Jerusalem, which, we are told, will come down to the earth from heaven, but it is clear, despite the clear evidence of Scripture, that you have denied that heaven and earth will indeed be one and the same in the age to come, with God overseeing all from His holy city. The kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of heaven, will encompass all.

    If meeting The Lord in the clouds is not ‘going up’ I suggest you think Jesus will meet us on a foggy day rather than in the air!

  27. Christians (ie Steve) Wrong About Heaven

    NT Wright

    N.T. “Tom” Wright is one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought. As Bishop of Durham, he is the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England and a major player in the strife-riven global Anglican Communion; as a much-read theologian and Biblical scholar he has taught at Cambridge and is a hero to conservative Christians worldwide for his 2003 book The Resurrection of the Son of God, which argued forcefully for a literal interpretation of that event.

    It therefore comes as a something of a shock that Wright doesn’t believe in heaven — at least, not in the way that millions of Christians understand the term. In his new book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne), Wright quotes a children’s book by California first lady Maria Shriver called What’s Heaven, which describes it as “a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk… If you’re good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]… When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him.” That, says Wright is a good example of “what not to say.” The Biblical truth, he continues, “is very, very different.”

    Wright, 58, talked by phone with TIME’s David Van Biema.

    TIME: At one point you call the common view of heaven a “distortion and serious diminution of Christian hope.”

    Wright: It really is. I’ve often heard people say, “I’m going to heaven soon, and I won’t need this stupid body there, thank goodness.’ That’s a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.

    TIME: How so? It seems like a typical sentiment.

    Wright: There are several important respects in which it’s unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

    TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

    Wright: We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well.

    TIME: But it’s not where the real action is, so to speak?

    Wright: No. Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I’ve called the life after life after death — in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth. Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will “awake,” be embodied and participate in the renewal. John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: “God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves.” That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God’s presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ’s kingdom.

    TIME: That is rather different from the common understanding. Did some Biblical verse contribute to our confusion?

    Wright: There is Luke 23, where Jesus says to the good thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” But in Luke, we know first of all that Christ himself will not be resurrected for three days, so “paradise” cannot be a resurrection. It has to be an intermediate state. And chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, where there is a vision of worship in heaven that people imagine describes our worship at the end of time. In fact it’s describing the worship that’s going on right now. If you read the book through, you see that at the end we don’t have a description of heaven, but, as I said, of the new heavens and the new earth joined together.

    TIME: Why, then, have we misread those verses?

    Wright: It has, originally, to do with the translation of Jewish ideas into Greek. The New Testament is deeply, deeply Jewish, and the Jews had for some time been intuiting a final, physical resurrection. They believed that the world of space and time and matter is messed up, but remains basically good, and God will eventually sort it out and put it right again. Belief in that goodness is absolutely essential to Christianity, both theologically and morally. But Greek-speaking Christians influenced by Plato saw our cosmos as shabby and misshapen and full of lies, and the idea was not to make it right, but to escape it and leave behind our material bodies. The church at its best has always come back toward the Hebrew view, but there have been times when the Greek view was very influential.

    TIME: Can you give some historical examples?

    Wright: Two obvious ones are Dante’s great poetry, which sets up a Heaven, Purgatory and Hell immediately after death, and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine chapel, which portrays heaven and hell as equal and opposite last destinations. Both had enormous influence on Western culture, so much so that many Christians think that is Christianity.

    TIME: But it’s not.

    Wright: Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are we are all going to heaven. They all say, Jesus is raised, therefore the new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.

    TIME: That sounds a lot like… work.

    Wright: It’s more exciting than hanging around listening to nice music. In Revelation and Paul’s letters we are told that God’s people will actually be running the new world on God’s behalf. The idea of our participation in the new creation goes back to Genesis, when humans are supposed to be running the Garden and looking after the animals. If you transpose that all the way through, it’s a picture like the one that you get at the end of Revelation.

    TIME: And it ties in to what you’ve written about this all having a moral dimension.

    Wright: Both that, and the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their “souls going to Heaven.” If people think “my physical body doesn’t matter very much,” then who cares what I do with it? And if people think that our world, our cosmos, doesn’t matter much, who cares what we do with that? Much of “traditional” Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won’t be going up there to him, he’ll be coming down here.

    TIME: That’s very different from, say, the vision put out in the Left Behind books.

    Wright: Yes. If there’s going to be an Armageddon, and we’ll all be in heaven already or raptured up just in time, it really doesn’t matter if you have acid rain or greenhouse gases prior to that. Or, for that matter, whether you bombed civilians in Iraq. All that really matters is saving souls for that disembodied heaven.

    TIME: Has anyone you’ve talked to expressed disappointment at the loss of the old view?

    Wright: Yes, you might get disappointment in the case where somebody has recently gone through the death of somebody they love and they are wanting simply to be with them. And I’d say that’s understandable. But the end of Revelation describes a marvelous human participation in God’s plan. And in almost all cases, when I’ve explained this to people, there’s a sense of excitement and a sense of, “Why haven’t we been told this before?”

    Read more:,8599,1710844,00.html#ixzz2YvMUCPhZ

  28. True dat!

    Oh, and Steve, the only slur on anyone from my position is the one taken by affronted Christians who have to reassess their cherished and long-held views in the light of convincing scriptural conclusions.

    Rather than the ad hom attack, take some prayerful time out to look at this subject afresh, rather than parrot the default setting heard at so many funerals.

  29. Just to add, that gnosticism was an insidious poison creeping into the early church even as the NT letters were being written. It’s focus on the evil of matter and true nature of some disembodied ‘spiritual’ existence was totally at odds with early Christian teaching. It played down, even negated, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the hope of the saints to follow in like fashion at their rising. It made God’s creation out to be of no significance or consequence, and had the net effect of being a false gospel.

    I firmly believe that your view, though commonly held, has its roots in such thinking. It might seem innocent and of no real bearing in this life, but it has genuine ramifications to our roles and energies applied to kingdom matters right now.

  30. The ad hominem attack was yours, zeibart, hence my response. Didn’t you use the terms ‘gnostic’ or something akin to ‘devilish’ to describe Christians who take Scripture literally on heaven? And it was Bones you labelled believers ‘infantile’ who accept the Biblical understanding of heaven.

    Much of what N T Wright says isn’t controversial in this regard. He says that people who describe it as “a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk… If you’re good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]… When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him” are notionally wrong, and I would agree with this. It is a misshapen concept of the afterlife.

    He also points to the passage where Jesus promises the man on the other cross he would be with him in paradise, which could not be heaven as such, but must me located in the grave, which is bore out by Scripture. But then Christ leads captivity captive and we find that paradise is located before the throne of God and surrounding the Rover of God which issues forth from the throne, so we see that paradise has moved form the Eden of God, to the grave, to the presence of God.

    But the idea that there is no heaven, that there is no place which could be called the abode of God isn’t confirmed in Scripture. It is variously called ‘heaven’ or the ‘mountain of God’, or ‘the heavenlies’, and the implication is elevation, a place beyond our current understanding, whether spiritually or naturally.

    Paul tells us of a man, and it is most likely himself, who went to the third heaven, and there he experienced unutterable things.

    2 Corinthians 12:1-4
    It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

    So we know from Paul’s revelation that paradise as located in heaven, and he experienced it, either in the body or out f it, as he says.

    He also tells us he was ‘caught up’, which is the same term used of the saints in 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul speaks of them being ‘caught up’ to meet the Lord ‘in the air’. The Greek word is harpazo, which literally means to be seized up, or carried off, or snatched away.

    He says he was ‘caught up’ to the third heaven, which implies a space beyond the atmosphere, or the intermediate space between the earth and sky. he is taking us into a completely different dimension, and, of course, God is the eternal omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient being, who inhabits the past, present and future.

    We know, from mathematics and physics, that a fifth dimension in time and space is possible, but beyond the average person’s capacity to grasp, but, in terms of where God is and where He can take us, given His omnipotence, the possibility of all of these things is undeniable.

    Just because our finite minds cannot find a place for the supernatural, or things beyond our understanding doesn’t mean that God cannot pull them off or grasp them Himself.

    “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…

  31. ‘Rover of God’? River of God!

    He doesn’t, of course, drive a Land Rover, but a Chariot of Fire.

  32. The ancients had no understanding of a ‘fifth dimension’. They clearly believed that heaven was up in the sky above the Earth where God lived. Hence the building of the Tower of Babel to heaven and God having to go down to see what was going on.

    Hence Jesus ascended ‘up’ into the sky to heaven, he will descend on a çloud from heaven.

    God doesn’t live in heaven. God is everywhere.

  33. Says you, Bones. Fortunately (for the rest of us), the Word says differently, and we don’t have to follow you or your opinion.

    As I said before, you have erroneously eliminated so much of Scripture that it is almost impossible to discuss anything Biblical with you. so why would anyone bother?

    For instance, there are 53 references to heaven in Revelation alone. 53! But you have removed Revelation so far from the equation that there is no point talking to you about what Jesus, the true author of Revelation, says about it. In fact I expect a negative response for simply telling you this.

    But for anyone who is lurking, here is a note from Hebrews, which tells us where Christ is at present.

    Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…

    So Christ has entered into heaven, appearing in the presence of God for us. He is the High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek, seated at the right hand of glory.

    Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

    Now you and zeibart can believe what you want, and makes claims that God doesn’t dwell in heaven, but why would anyone who, unlike you, actually believes the Word, doubt what we are told regarding where Christ is at present, and where we will be when He comes for the Church?

    Peter, too tells us where Christ is.

    There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

    There is ample Scripture to back this up. This is just a sample.

    Further to this, there is also the case for the Holy Spirit being sent from heaven, which is a key doctrine, and evidence that Christ has ascended.

    Quite plainly you and zeibart are in error.

  34. Further to this, the very inheritance of the saints is reserved in heaven.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
    1 Peter 1:3-4

    It is this inheritance which we will receive when we are changing in the twinkling of an eye and put on the incorruptible, as already pointed out to you from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul talks about earthly bodies and celestial bodies, and from 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, when I told you about heavenly things, which we are to focus on, and are eternal, compared to earthly things, which are temporal and subject to decay.

    And the fact that heaven is Biblically located above is amply testified in he same passages I have already given you, only you read past them as if they do not speak of descending from heaven.

    For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

    The Lord will descend, that is come down from, heaven. The the saints, living and dad will rise to Him.

    That is Scripture, and Scripture is truth.

    And I’m only just scratching the surface so far. There is far more. But you won’t see it because you have chosen blindness over truth.

  35. Steve, you seem slightly confused as to my position on heaven as a place/dimension. I stated quite categorically that it exists, but not in any form that flesh and blood can interact with. This is conclusive from many scriptures, so I’m not making a case against heaven as you appear to say, nor am I in Bones’ camp on the non-existence of heaven.

    What I am saying is that heaven is not man’s destiny or final destination, and have made the case perfectly clearly. To believe we have an alter ego that goes somewhere after we die is at the heart of Platonic Greek thinking, which itself undergirds gnostic-leaning Christianity. That is what I challenge (as does NT Wright) because of the subtle damage it does to the power of the gospel, our future hope and the mission of the church right now.

    I was only reading this morning those verses you quoted from 1 Peter 1. Look again at the last words of verse 4. When will our salvation be revealed? Not after we die, but at the ‘last day’! Our true destiny comes at the last day, the return of Jesus, at our resurrection. I can’t stress enough how a floaty, disembodied after life in heaven swings our focus away from what Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and early church fathers were impressing upon their audience.

    I hope that makes things clearer for you lest I get swept up into more incorrect summarising of what I supposedly believe. This is important.

  36. I was responding to your assertion that Man was never destined for heaven – to think such is gnostic folly and wholly unscriptural.

    There are many instances where heaven is mentioned as a destination for regenerated believers. The description of heaven given by Wright as fluffy clouds, etc., was, of course, a distortion of the Biblical concept, used to exaggerate what people understand as the place of the eternal saved.

    I believe the new heavens and new earth will be united and accessed through the New Jerusalem, where we will be invited to dwell with God.

    Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
    Revelation 21:1-3

    We may be looking at the same idea from different angles, I agree, but the claim you made of gnosticism and dualism isn’t accurate. A heavenly hope is certainly a valid desire for all believers, and certainly part of the faith journey of the patriarchs.

    We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth…
    Colossians 1:3-6

    Hebrews 11
    9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
    10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
    11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
    12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude–innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
    13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
    14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
    15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
    16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

  37. Zeibart’s right that we aren’t made for heaven. Otherwise God would’ve just created us and put us in heaven instead of trying to prove ourselves on Earth.

    NT Wright is correct when he says there is nothing about salvation meaning going to heaven even in the metaphorical/mythological Book of Revelation the New Jerusalem isn’t heaven and we see a new Earth.

    The whole heaven and hell mythology needs to go. Angels don’t go up and down to the Earth from heaven.

    Of course we have reinterpreted what the ancients meant by heaven and hell. We’ve come up with our own understanding of what they mean. To say that the Old and New Testament writers were referring to a different dimension when they wrote of heaven is simply not true. They believed heaven was above the clouds. The Tower of Babel and the Ascension are clear examples of this worldview. Same with Jesus coming out of the clouds.

    It doesn’t help of course when the Hebrew word for heaven shamayim also means sky/atmosphere. that just adds to the confusion of translation.

    We’ve done the same with Gehenna. Reinterpreted it to something different that the ancients were writing about. That is hell.

    But is it honest to reinterpret what the ancients believed and put our own spin on what they wrote?

    That’s no fault of the ancients. Nor is it belittling them. Our understanding of the universe is far greater than theirs as will those who are living in 3 000 years time than mine.

    We live in the modern age and our understanding of the cosmos is totally different to the ancients. It’s a peculiar and weird belief that would have God and Jesus sitting in heaven up in the sky somewhere. It’s sad that Christians still think that and expect modern intelligent people to accept their worldview when we can see to the ends of the Universe.

    God is everywhere the Psalmist proclaims (Ps 139; cf Amos 9:2,3; Jer 23:23,24; Gen 28:15,16; Deut 4:13; Josh 2:11; Isa 66:1; Isa 43:2; Prov 15:3; Heb 13:5). There is no place where God is not.

    We don’t need them in our theology. God doesn’t live in heaven as the ancients thought like in Job. It’s a Sunday School view of the universe.

    We don’t need to cling to ancient mythologies as if without them our whole belief system will come crashing down.

    Let’s just be honest and ditch them. Heaven and hell are, at best, llinguistic metaphors (eg Paul going up to the seventh heaven).

    It makes Christians look ignorant and foolish.

  38. Grecan influences on Biblical cosmology. The Orthodox position makes far more sense. Heaven and hell aren’t places but experiences of the eternal presence of a loving God.

    It’s also useful to consider the ancient Greco-Roman pagan understanding of the heavens and Hades. Though it was not fundamental to Hebrew theology, the Greek view was still sometimes referenced or borrowed, because these ideas were familiar and prevalent in the culture.

    The ancient pagan Greek view, later adopted by the Romans, was that heaven was a physical place up in the sky. The word for heaven is used interchangeably with the location of the objects of the sky, as in “heavenly bodies”, and for the dwelling place of the gods. That is why the Greek word for heaven and sky is the same; there was no distinction made between them in the earliest writings, but eventually they were also understood to be more as a metaphor for the spiritual heaven.

    For the ancient pagan Greeks, Hades was a place, but was sometimes also personified in folk mythology. The physical place was where all humans go when they die, a site located at the center of the earth. Like Sheol, it was the final abode of all humans, but unlike Sheol, it was taken to be a geographic site, the literal “underworld” in folk mythology. It was also taken as a metaphor for the place of final rest. Hades was also sometimes taken as the name of the ruler of this place, the pagan god Hades, also known as Pluton by the Romans.

    In Greco-Roman mythology Heaven was reserved only for the gods, and after death mere mortals could only hope to find a safe place in Hades to spend eternity. The early Greco-Roman Hades was a very literal and even primitive concept, compared to the Jews’ more spiritual Sheol. If a person was dead, they were in Hades, and there was no other option; only a very rare few heroes challenged the gods of the heavens and were immortalized in the stars.

    The pre-Christian Greek language had thus developed in this kind of world view, both heaven and Hades as a physical and literal existence up in the sky, or down under the ground. Although these later became more metaphorical in more developed pagan writings, from this is where the universal concept of “up” for heaven or Paradise, and “down” for the place of the dead came. It is used metaphorically by both the Jews and pagans to describe mankind’s relationship with God, and so became a universal cultural concept. This is why there are so many Biblical references to God being “up” in heaven, and Sheol being “down” in the “under parts of the earth”. However, neither the Jews nor the early Christians took these ideas literally as the ancient Greeks and Romans may have, but understood “up” and “down” as spiritual rather than physical realities.

    For the Jews and early Christians, even Sheol was not separated from God. Translating directly from the Greek of the Septuagint Palms 139:7 and 8 “Where can I go away from your spirit? And away from your presence, where can I flee? If I go up into heaven, you are there. If I go down into Hades, there is your presence.”

  39. Is that what you’e saying? Jesus got it wrong? Jesus preached error?

    And Paul? Peter? The writer of Hebrews? The oter writers?

    The entire Old Testament?

    The entire New Testament?

    They all got it wrong?

  40. That’s your problem. Not mine.

    The evidence and facts are in.

    Heaven is not located above the sky.

  41. Well, no, it’s not my problem. I’m happy with what the Word of God says.

    I was just asking you if you were saying that Jesus preached error.

    Straight questions:

    1. Did Jesus preach error when he talked about heaven?
    2. Did Jesus preach error when he talked about Hades and Gehenna?

  42. I see the ‘No True Scotsman’ one gets used a lot.

    As in ‘No true believer or Christian would…’ and ‘Appeal to Authority’ such as the Bible says this so end of or ‘The Genetic Fallacy’ – rejecting an idea on the basis of who made it or what some other source says (eg Bible? or you don’t believe in Revelation what the hell would you know)

    I’m trying to work out which one I’m using.

    Can you give us a hint?

  43. To be more clear, Steve, I think we agree that the new heavens and earth will coalesce at the end of God’s final rearrangement of the universe. Man in his resurrected spiritual body will have access to enjoy the entire shebang. Righty ho, that’s settled then.

    What I have been countering above, however, is not the final environment and our part in it, but your conviction that man floats off to heaven or hell on death. That is the dualist gnostic part. We are called to die once and then be judged (Heb 9:27), but if we hit the fork in the road just after death, when does the judging occur to a disembodied spirit/soul/vapour? On death? Surely not, for all will be raised at the last day to go before the great white throne. Or what about the judgement seat of Christ? Are there 3 separate judgements? Can you see how awkward the whole off to heaven or hell issue becomes if resurrection is a bit player? Resurrection is central, and we take it lightly at our peril.

  44. Greg, logical fallacy ‘post-hoc ergo propter hoc’, just because it sounds good and Paul would understand it.

    In reality, straw man is used most commonly here, I suggest. Sheesh, the misquoting……

  45. Heaven is God, not an imaginary place, Pope Benedict says

    Heaven is not an abstract idea or an imaginary place, but heaven is God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

    Celebrating an early morning Mass Aug. 15, the pope said the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary “urges us to raise our gaze toward heaven, not a heaven of abstract ideas nor an imaginary heaven created in art, but the true reality of heaven which is God himself. God is heaven.”

    During the Mass in the small parish Church of St. Thomas, located on the main square in Castel Gandolfo, the pope said that while Mary’s assumption is “totally unique and extraordinary,” it also assures believers that their destiny, like hers, is to be with God forever.

    God is “our goal, he is the dwelling place from which we came and toward which we are called,” the pope told about 200 people who had crowded into the church, while hundreds of others watched on a large screen erected in the square.

    “We are all children of God the father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, children of our mother Mary,” the pope said. “And all of us want happiness, and that happiness is found in God.”

  46. From John Shore

    Atheist and Christian argue about hell (in a Starbucks). Atheist wins.

    (While sitting at Starbucks yesterday I overheard the following conversation between two men I’ll call Christian and Tom. Christian was trying to evangelize to Tom. As you’ll see, Tom ended up wiping the floor with Christian. Why? Because Tom was right: the whole concept of the Christian hell is manifest nonsense, for the reason he so well articulated. Here’s hoping that more Christians hear what the Toms of the world are trying to tell them.)

    Tom: But what you’re saying simply doesn’t make any sense.

    Christian: What doesn’t?

    Tom: That if I don’t believe in the reality of the same God that you just told me loves me, then that God will condemn me to hell for all eternity. How could God love me and do that to me?

    Christian: Because God loves you enough to let you decide your own fate.

    Tom: But that doesn’t change the fact that if I choose to not believe in God, God could, if he wanted, still not send me to hell. He could commute my sentence. He could forgive me for the mistaken choice I made. God has that power, right? Because he’s all-powerful?

    Christian: God can do anything.

    Tom: Which means he can certainly choose not to send me to hell. And that can only mean that if I do end up in hell, it was God’s will that made that happen. Ultimately God wanted me in hell—so that’s where I ended up. God actively chose hell for me.

    Christian: You chose hell for yourself by refusing to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

    Tom: That I made that mistake doesn’t alter the fact that God has chosen to punish me for that mistake by forcing me to spend eternity being physically tortured. And anyone who would choose for me to suffer horribly throughout eternity as punishment for doing nothing more egregious than using the mind he gave me cannot possibly love me. Under no definition of the word would doing anything so unconscionable qualify as love.

    Christian: It’s divine justice.

    Tom: Really? That’s justice? I’ve got the little tiny span of my lifetime to try to figure out a whole bunch of stuff about God and man, and, with the extremely limited range of information available to me in the course of that time, I decide incorrectly—I guess that there’s not a God, or I decide that I just can’t be sure either way, or I choose to believe in a different God than the one prescribed for me by Christianity—and, as punishment for that mistake, God decides to condemn me to spending the rest of forever having the living flesh seared off my bones? And you’re comfortable calling that justice? That doesn’t strike you as … oh, I don’t know … excessively punitive? Like the kind of unbelievably cruel thing you might expect from a cruel, petty, ego-maniacal dictator, rather than from a God of love?

    Christian: Hell is just God’s judgment upon the sinner who refuses to accept his love.

    Tom: You’ve got to understand that you’re using words to mean what they don’t actually mean at all. In fact, you’re using words to mean the exact opposite of what they mean. You don’t choose an eternity of torture for someone you love. And if you do choose that for someone for the reason you’re saying your God does choose that for people, that is not justice. That’s injustice. Look: After I’m dead, God either has the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t have that power, then he’s too weak to matter. If he does have the power to send me to heaven instead of hell, and he wills me to go to hell, then he is without compassion–or at the very least he certainly doesn’t love me. But those are the only two choices. By your own definition, God is either not all-powerful, or not all-loving. But he can’t be all-powerful and all loving, if I—a nice guy, a loving guy, a guy who gives to charities and actually does help people in the world—can end up in hell. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t love somebody and shoot them in the head because they refuse to answer my phone calls.

    Christian: You’re looking for rational explanations for mysteries that only God comprehends.

    Tom: Oh, that’s so typical. Whenever Christians run into a simple logical inconsistency that cuts directly to the viability of their entire belief system, they resort to the only “argument” left to them—which is that we inferior sinners, who are so pathetic that we think it’s a good idea to use our rational minds to help us understand things that don’t seem to make sense, can’t possibly begin to fathom God’s “mysterious ways.” At the slightest challenge, Christians like you absolutely abandon logic. It’s ridiculous—and at best should be embarrassing to you. If you can’t explain the simplest, most obvious, most terrible contradiction in the qualities you say your God possesses–much less in the primary quality you say he possesses, which is his love for all mankind–then how in the world do you expect anyone but a sheer moron to take you or your religion seriously?

    Christian: God bless you, man. I fear for your soul.

    Tom: I’ll let slide all the repelling, presumptive arrogance inherent in that statement. But I will tell you this: I fear for your mind. Later.

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